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Basic Guide to using the Lubitel

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Even if you are used to
SLR photography - Lubitels can seem very difficult. Some of the knobs and markings may seem familiar - but what film to use and how to load and operate the camera are not obvious.

This page is an attempt to cover some of the questions we get frequently asked. Its by no means complete and will be extended with more information and pictures hopefully soon

This guide is appropriate to most models of Lubitel - however the Lubitel 166 (not the Lubitel 166U or Lubitel 166 Universal) has automatic film counting and shutter cocking and is obviously a bit different to use in these areas.

Q) What sort of film does the Lubitel take??
A) The Lubitel takes 120 rollfilm. Rollfilm is a wide strip of film backed with a paper backing which is wound onto a spool.

Q) What sort of rollfilm do I need?
A) Rollfilm is available in colour print/slide and black and white print types just like ordinary 35mm film. Also it comes in different sizes - the most common of which is 120. This is still used by professional photographers and is the type you need for the Lubitel. The only other rollfilm you might see advertised is 220. This is double length 120 without the backing paper and is NOT suitable for the Lubitel.

Q) Where do I get 120 rollfilm?
A) This is available from all good photographic/camera shops - and from a large variety of mailorder companies. You are unlikely to find it in your local chemist/drug store. All rollfilm sizes other than 120 (and 220) are effectively out of production although there are sources available for some of them.

Q) How do I load a rollfilm?
A) First point to note is that unlike 35mm - rollfilm is not rewound at the end. Therefore don't worry that you only have a winding knob and no rewinding knob.

Open the back of the camera. The
166U has a single rotating catch at the top of the back door - whilst the older ones have simpler clips.

Once inside you'll see the cameras has 2 compartments, top and bottom. The top one has a winding knob which should only go in one direction (clockwise).

To use the camera you need a film and an empty film spool. The empty film spool goes in the top compartment.

The film itself has a small paper tab which needs to be broken. After doing this you should be able to carefully start unwinding the backing paper. You only want to do this a few inches. Put the film spool in the bottom compartment and pull the end of the backing paper you have started to unwind up and over the film gate and insert the end into one of the slots in the top empty film spool.

Now if you start to wind the knob, the film should be drawn off the lower spool and onto the upper spool. Only wind a few inches with the back open - or until you can see a line marked START on the backing paper.

Close the back and make sure the cover is rotated on the red window so you  can see the backing paper. Wind the film until you see a '1' appear in the  window. At this point the film is at exposure 1.

(you may see other stuff on the backing paper like dots and arrows. These  vary from film make to film make and its best to go slowly the first time  you load a film. One type of film has each frame number twice, one above  each other - so '1' looks like:


This can be confusing so if you see:


You know you've gone to the next frame! ;-(

If you're wondering how to set the film speed on the camera - don't worry - you don't need to! Click
HERE to find out why.

Q) How do I take a picture?
A) First thing to do is set the focus. The Lubitel has a ground glass 'dot' in the centre of the viewfinder. By rotating the toothed wheel around the top or bottom lens you should be able to get the image in the 'dot' in focus. Don't be fooled by the fact that most of the viewfinder is always in focus - this is a design feature (known as a brilliant finder) and is to aid picture composition. You should find a little flip out magnifying glass which makes using the 'dot' much easier. However if you can't be bothered with the 'dot' - then just set the distance you guess is correct by rotating the top or bottom cog until the focus scale at the top reads the correct distance. This focusing scale is marked in metres.

Now you have to set the aperture and shutter controls on the front of the camera to get the right exposure. If you have a light meter or a modern SLR which gives meter readings then use this. Otherwise just guess or use the information printed in the inside of the film carton. Depending on your Lubitel the shutter speeds will be 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and B or 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and B. As usual on cameras the '1/' is not marked so 1/60 becomes 60 and so on. The speed is set by rotating the speed selector metal ring until the notch is against the speed. Don't be tempted to set in-between speeds like half way between 30 and 60 for 45. This doesn't work. The shutter isn't that clever.

Aperture is from F4.5 to F22 and marked 4.5 to 22. This is selected in much the same way as the shutter speed - however in-between apertures are allowed.

All Lubitels (except for the rare
Lubitel 166) require cocking (the tensioning of the firing spring) before use - so now is the time to do this. The cocking lever is at the top left of the shutter (looking at the front of the camera) and moves down. This lever will stay in the cocking position once set.

The actual firing of the shutter (taking the picture) is activated by a little lever just below the cocking lever.

After each shot wind the film on until the next number appears in the red window. When you've done your last exposure winding on will reveal the black backing paper through the red window

Q) How do I use a filter?
A) Lubitels up to and including the Lubitel 2 use a 27mm push on filter. These filters were certainly made (our
Komsomolets has them) - but are rarely if ever found with Lubitels. Other cameras however also used the 27mm push on size and filters from those should work. Here are some nice WalzFilters which fit well:

WalzFilters which fit the 27mm Lubitel fliter mount

Newer Lubitels appear to retain this 27mm fitting - however they also have a 40.5mm screw fitting. Filters for this are not overly common either - though much more so than the 27mm one.

Q) How do I unload the rollfim?
A) Once the black backing paper has appeared in the red window, wind on a bit for good measure and open the back up. Be ready to hold the  top spool so the film does not unwind from it when the back is released.

Carefully remove the film spool (holding it tight at all times) and seal  it with the gummed paper strip which will have become visible. Then send  the film for processing.

Now remove the empty film spool and reinsert it into the top of the camera. Now you  are now ready to load another film.

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